Switcheroo (Gideon Oliver #18), by Aaron Elkins

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Aaron Elkins, and Thomas & Mercer Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book, which allows me to provide you with this review.

Elkins brings back his famed Skeleton Detective, Dr. Gideon Oliver, for another zany and highly entertaining case. When asked to investigate a cold case from the 1960s, Oliver jumps at the opportunity to head over to the Channel Islands. Once there, the tale of two linked by a common past comes to life, especially as they were discovered on the same day. As Oliver examines the bones left behind, he begins to poke holes in the original forensic findings and unravels a mystery that dates back to the time of the Nazi Occupation, involving young Roddy Carlisle and George Skinner. Using simple forensics and genetics, Oliver opens a chasm that causes new bodies to emerge and leaves those in Jersey wondering who is next to face the murderer’s wrath, as family members of both men posit how their ancestors died and what sinister motive could explain it all. Elkins offers up another of his interesting forensic pieces, using a quaint backdrop and some returning characters to pave the way to a successful mystery.

Before Jefferson Bass and Kathy Reichs made their marks, Aaron Elkins had the monopoly on good forensic anthropology mysteries. His stories utilise a loose set of characters, some of whom reappear, but others who make their presence known in a single mystery. While they are well-crafted and succinct, they do not probe as deeply into the case as other authors of the same genre. I have also found that readers of Elkins’ works, particularly the Gideon Oliver novels, must suspend chronology in order to fit the stories together. I know I have made this complaint when I read the series consecutively, in the past, but when Elkins seeks to use dates to place the characters in a certain timeframe, one cannot ignore the placement of chronology listed in some of the early novels, making Gideon an impossible forty-two, or his well-developed backstory possible. Still, the story is light and seems to flow effectively, perfect for a short read on holiday or over a rainy/snowy weekend.

Kudos, Mr. Elkins for another interesting mystery. I hope others enjoy your books as much as I have come to do over the years.